F-117 Nighthawk was officially retired in 2008
According to Matt Hartman, on February 19, two mysterious F-117 Nighthawks stealth aircraft flew together with a U.S. Air Force KC-135R aerial refueling tanker over Los Angeles International Airport.
“Over LAX Airport the U.S. Air Force KC-135R tanker with two F-117 stealth fighter ,C/S KNIGHT01 w/ KNIGHT02 in flight over SoCal……never in my life…have I seen such a AWE moment…I mean …..WOW!!! 02-19-21,” he said on Twitter.
The F-117A was developed in response to an Air Force request for an aircraft capable of attacking high value targets without being detected by enemy radar. By the 1970s, new materials and techniques allowed engineers to design an aircraft with radar-evading or stealth qualities. The result was the F-117A, the world’s first operational stealth aircraft.
The first Nighthawk flew June 18, 1981, and the original F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group (renamed the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1989), achieved initial operating capability in October 1983.
The Nighthawk originally saw combat during Operation Just Cause in 1989, when two F-117s from the 37th TFW attacked military targets in Panama. The aircraft was also in action during Operation Desert Shield.
After 25 years of service, the Nighthawk retired on April 22, 2008, but continues to capture the public’s imagination.
According to The Drive, even though F-117 Nighthawk currently flies on in a limited fashion for testing and training purposes, its days as a combat aircraft are long behind it.
In addition, earlier in January 2021, the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command (AMC) has issued a formal order that all KC-135 Stratotankers are now cleared to execute aerial refueling operations with F-117 Nighthawks.
This serves as additional evidence that the F-117’s post-retirement operations are becoming more widespread and far less reclusive in nature.